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Fans pour out hearts in rah-rah requiem over loss of HNIC song

UNDATED - From the sublime halls of Parliament to the ridiculous - yet hilarious - lyrics of a Calgary radio station, Canadians poured out their hearts Friday in a rah-rah requiem for their beloved hockey anthem.

Advertisers, meanwhile, said anyone who thinks the disputed "Hockey Night in Canada" theme song has much monetary value outside of the CBC-TV broadcast has taken too many pucks to the head.

CBC broke off negotiations Friday with the agency representing the composer of the famous dunt-da-dunt-da-duh ditty. The broadcaster issued a release expressing its disappointment at failing to reach a deal with John Ciccone, who represents composer Dolores Claman.

"I'm disappointed and confused as to what it would take to make a deal," CBC Sports executive director Scott Moore said Friday in a telephone interview. "We kept the lines of communication open all day and all night, we made an offer and we extended deadlines.

"I understand Canadians may be upset, but frankly we were at a loss at how to make a deal."

Claman, who now lives in England, gets $500 each time CBC uses the song. Ciccone was looking for a similar deal this time around.

Moore insists CBC was more than fair in its negotiations with Ciccone.

"We made offers to buy it out ... lucrative offers in the six-figure range," said Moore. "We asked for mediation, and we got them to mediation, but the mediator just couldn't bring the two sides together."

The licence agreement between Claman and CBC expired at the end of the NHL season Wednesday when the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup.

Talks have also been hampered by a four-year-old lawsuit launched by Ciccone's firm that argues the CBC is using the song more than the contract allows.

"Hockey Night in Canada" has used the sting for almost 40 years to bookend and punctuate its NHL broadcasts so much so it has become a staple of the Saturday night hockey experience and reaches deep into the Canadian consciousness.

Now, fans will have the chance to decide on "Hockey Night's" new theme music.

CBC wasted little time getting over the disappointment of Friday's events, announcing a contest which invites musicians from across Canada to compose the new "Hockey Night" theme song. The winning composer will earn $100,000 for the ditty, with a portion of future royalties going towards minor hockey associations throughout the country.

"We're going to have hundreds of thousands of entries, I think," said Moore. "The viewers will choose the winner. They'll tell us what they want. I think that's really cool."

While the contest is sure to generate plenty of buzz, traditionalists won't be appeased in the least.

From coast to coast to coast, fans feeling neutral-zone trapped over the impasse vented their frustrations Friday, and had some fun, on blog sites and call-in radio shows.

Kelowna car dealer Scott Minifie said he was so outraged, he launched a Facebook page devoted to saving the song that was for him one of the best parts of his childhood.

"You're with your family, it's dinner time on a Saturday night and the hockey game is on and it's just always been there", said Minifie in a phone interview

The responses on his page reveal song as cultural ritual: it's played at funerals, at weddings. It's on ringtones and downloads.

"Why don't we change our country's name while we're at it," wrote Tracy Gosling from Vancouver.

"NOT COOL!" added Tara Bladon of Ottawa.

In Parliament, Liberal critic Denis Coderre demanded Heritage Minister Josee Verner break the deadlock and keep the song alive.

"The Hockey Night in Canada theme is a part of Canada's culture that goes beyond sport," said Coderre.

"If the minister wants to show that she cares about Canadian heritage, this is her chance."

In Calgary, radio station XL 103 added lyrics to the instrumental to pay homage to a second Canadian shinny rite of spring: painting your face, watching the game on TV, drinking beer with your buddies and getting blitzed ("I won't remember who won the game or even my own name soooooon!")

Ciccone hasn't divulged which other suitors are ready to step up and pay top dollar.

But Frank Palmer, CEO of Vancouver-based ad firm DDB, said the theme without hockey is like the Johnny Carson theme without Johnny - nothing.

"I can't personally see a lot of other use for it if they don't make the deal. They go hand in the hand," said Palmer.

Trying to transfer the jingle to another sports show or to an unrelated product would take a lot of time and patience, he said.

"I'm not saying it couldn't be done. I just can't see it off the top of my mind."

Tony Chapman, CEO of Toronto-based marketer Capital C, thinks the contest is a fantastic way for CBC to reinvent its hockey brand for a new generation.

"All you musicians, all you Guitar Heroes all you computer guys, get in there," he said.

"You'll have guys coming in with YouTube videos, guys using their Facebook pages to create a buzz. You'll have millions upon millions of (Web) hits."

As for the old song, he said, it might be used to sell to an older demographic, but that's it.

"You don't want to put Axe or a Mazda or a Nissan to it," he said.

"Ford might be interested for the truck business to say 'We have some equity with our heritage.'

"But we're not talking about 'Stairway to Heaven' as much as we like to think we are."



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